On this day - 12th May 1860: Sir Charles Barry died


On this day in 1860, the English architect Sir Charles Barry died. I know that a lot of my 'On this Day' posts can be judged as, at best, totally random, but this one is strangely topical (or at least it was when I wrote it!) Sir Charles Barry was the architect who re-modelled no less a building as the Palace of Westminster otherwise known as the Houses of Parliament. In this heightened political climate a lot of focus is on what is happening behind those guilded doors and so it seemed that there was no better a time to learn a little bit more about the man who designed them. 

465px-Charles-Barry

Sir Charles Barry
Henry William Pickersgill [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

His CV is certainly impressive. Besides the Palace of Westminster he can also count the Royal Manchester Institution, the Royal College of Surgeons, the Lansdowne Monument, Trafalger Square and Downton Abbey (otherwise known as Highclere Castle). Perhaps it was his fees that led to Robert’s need to restore the family fortunes through marriage to American heiress Cora. Hello plot line!

Highclere Castle (April 2011) 2

Downton Abbey/Highclere Castle designed by Sir Charles Barry
By Richard Munckton from Windsor, Melbourne, Australia (Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle)) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In his work he generally favoured the Italian style having spent several years in Italy in his youth. It was he in fact, who really brought the Italian Renaissance style into fashion in Britain as he introduced it in so many of his garden designs, Palazzo style country houses and little Italian lodges and features which he scattered delicately across the country estates of his titled employers. 

Palace of Westminster - Clock Tower and New Palace Yard from the west - 240404

Palace of Westminster designed by Sir Charles Barry
By User Tagishsimon on en.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Despite his prolific achievements however he was not immune to problems. His work on the Palace of Westminster went spectacularly over budget and took 20 years longer than Barry had allowed for (perhaps Edinburgh Council took inspiration from him for the trams). Today, though many of his designs have stood the test of time others are getting rather worse for wear. Natural ageing and wear and tear have led to some extensive work being required.. The Palace of Westminster itself is in desperate need of restoration but how the government will go about doing has not been decided. What is certain however, is that a full restoration will cost far, far more than the  £2,166,846 that it originally cost in the 1850’s. 

© Isla Robertson 2017